On Wednesday, October 5th, 2011, the Center for Historic Preservation, in cooperation with the Department of Women and Gender Studies, co-sponsored a lecture featuring Dr. Heather Huyck, a public historian with more than 30 years of experience in the field. Dr. Huyck’s 5:00pm lecture in Combs Hall was titled, “Hard Hats & High Heels: Women Working in Historic Preservation”.
Dr. Huyck gave a brief history of her personal experience entering the field of historic preservation and public history, including the challenges she faced as a career-seeking woman in the 1970’s; during a time when social and economic equality for American women did not exist. Dr. Huyck attributes her success to her persevering nature and desire to fulfill her own dreams. “Do what you love, and the rest will work itself out.” Hyuck explained to her audience.
From here, Dr. Huyck began delving into her research interests and some of the work she had accomplished while employed at the National Park Service. Dr. Huyck is especially interested in reshaping the way history sites are interpreted to include the women’s side of the story. “Without including women, half of the story is missing. History is not about only telling half of the story.”
Dr. Huyck concluded her talk by getting to know some of the students, their career goals and immediate plans for the future. She emphasized the importance of attending conferences and retreats so that students get the opportunity to meet veterans in the field and establish relationships. “Get to know us. We’re excited to meet you, too.” Dr. Huyck advised not to get too discouraged about your first job in preservation. She believes students are unrealistic when looking for their first position. They want all the bells and whistles that come with their parents’ careers. “Remember that this most likely won’t be the job; but it will open the doors you need to get you the job.” Lastly, Dr. Huyck reminded students to show their bosses that they can go above and beyond the normal call of duty. In one instance, Dr. Huyck’s boss was leaving work at 6:30pm to find Dr. Huyck in the parking lot, getting ready to head over to one of the sites that her department managed. Her supervisor noticed her dedication and it eventually paid dividends for the advancement of her career.
At 7:00pm, Dr. Huyck gave another presentation in Lee Hall, focusing on the lack of women’s history as part of interpretation at historic sites across the nation. Women, according to Dr. Huyck, played an active role in the management and business side of the property.
Huyck strongly argued that the majority of National Park Service sites (and she has visited over 300 of them!), fail to include female-specific history as part of their interpretation. In doing so, these sites leave out half of the overall history of their site. While many sites have begun to include African-American history and Native-American History as part of their interpretation, women’s history remains absent from the discussion.